home of the canton movement

What is wrong with government? Essentially the problem is that all the power to spend taxes rests in too few hands.

In Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution, it states that there should be no more than 30,000 “Free Persons” per representative.

For the year 1800, then, with a total US population of 5.3 million, one Representative per 30,000 citizens equals about 177 Representatives.

As the population grew, Congress decided that it needed to limit the size of the House of Representatives. In 1910 they decided to set the limit at 435 members. Since the population of the US at that time was about 92.2 million, that meant each member of the House represented approximately 212,000 citizens. By 2010, with the population just below 309 million, each member represented about 710,000 citizens. If Congress had kept the initial 1/30000 ratio, the current number of Representatives would be just over 10,000, which would make taking a roll call vote a bit unwieldy and time-consuming.

But we begin to see the problem: Representatives become more and more powerful, and less and less accountable. Each individual citizen becomes less important to his or her Representative.

As the number of citizens represented grew, the amount of money that Representatives control grew exponentially. For much of the early history of the US, there were no corporate or personal income taxes. The federal government sustained its meager programs on tariffs, that is, taxes on imports. In 1913, though previously an occasional and temporary measure to pay war debts (and as a way to stick it to the rich), the income tax became permanent thru the 16th Amendment. In 1943, over the objections of businessmen everywhere, withholding began. This allowed the federal government to bypass the states and go directly to the citizens for funding, turning things upside down, so that states must get much funding from the federal government. It also meant that the amount of money the federal government could rake in was ENORMOUS compared to what they acquired thru tariffs alone.

With the boom in income came the boom in lobbyists, rushing to Washington to get their piece of the action. And with such a nice small number of Representatives to deal with, having a Congressman or two in your pocket was fairly easy to accomplish.

With all the pressures in place to grow government, it grew! And it did not stop growing when the government outspent revenues. It continued to grow on the borrowing and printing of fresh dollars, so that now our debt is as big as our annual Gross Domestic Product. And except for those darn Tea Party folks, and a few rating agencies, there seems to be little pressure to reverse the trend.

So, what can we do to put pressure on government to shrink back to something more manageable? How can we “right-size” government?

We create cantons that give taxpayers the power to decide how taxes are spent. With canton management entirely dependent on satisfying their taxpaying members, the counter-forces of special interests will finally lose their power to grow government in all the wrong ways.


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